The stories behind the stories

Crimson Dynamo #2

“Wonderful. You’ve been warehousing an eight-foot titanium opossum! — Jennings

“Game On!”

Gennady rushes home every night to play the new video game he’s discovered on his helmet — oblivious to the fact that a real robot is following his orders out in Siberia. Jennings studies its actions there, and Devereaux closes in, using a transmitter to communicate his threats directly to Gennady, who still thinks he’s dealing with a video game…
Published by Marvel • September 24, 2003
Written by John Jackson Miller

Art by Steve Ellis

Lettered by Thom Zahler

Colored by Thomas Mason

Cover by Steve Ellis

Packaged by Mark Patten

Edited by Stephanie Moore

Where some had initially likened this story to The Iron Giant or Marvel’s Sentinel, the extent to which it was really, instead, my nod to the movie WarGames, became apparent this issue. The broad similarities are certainly there: The joy of gameplay turns to fear when the player realizes what he’s been doing. The hero first hides from the problem, before finally realizing that only he can fix the problem he created. That picture (along with Special Bulletin, The Day AfterTestament, et al.) had a big effect on me as a teenager — I had a thorough World War III phobia in the early 1980s — which I grafted onto Wayne Jennings, who mentions the film in #3.

This issue’s cover was much more in the “propaganda poster” vein. I had hoped we could carry this conceit onto other covers, but space and time limited us to iconic covers without some of the more nationalistic trappings.

We hadn’t planned on having recap pages in this series, and I wrote all the scripts but #6 at 22 pages. (There was a 23rd in #1.) But Marvel wanted recap pages on all its titles, so we wound up adding a page to each rather than cutting any already-drawn pages. This worked out to benefit readers, as this six-issue story woundup running 132 pages rather than 126.

Compared to #1, which went through several revisions, #2 went much quicker. It’s more of a straightforward action issue, with the story advancing literally on two fronts simultaneously. The “big trench” scene took some work to carry off — the staging is kind of complicated in the dark — but Steve Ellis was up to the challenge.

After this script was approved, Marvel shifted editorial responsibilities out of the Epic office to Tom Brevoort. With Epic announced to the general public, that office needed to focus on new titles — and with me signing onto Iron Man, another Brevoort title, the shift made some workflow sense.

Issue #2 is much harder to find than #1. It’s a fact of the business that retailers order much higher on first issues and less on second ones — without even knowing how the first issue sold yet. That’s just part of doing business.

“Cool. Let’s see what else I can wreck…” — Gennady Gavrilov

The Russian word on the front cover is, obviously, “dynamo.” The “i” was written wrong in the initial draft, which is why the corrected letter looks a little squashed. And the headline on the newspaper on the first page translates to “Rampage!” Artist Steve Ellis knew Russian, meaning there are a lot more Cyrillic markings in the background in these issues than in the later issues by Joe Corroney.

And on that score, Omsk looks like it’s misspelled on the poster in the crowd at the hockey game. It’s not; the Russian “s” looks like the English “c.”

Readers could track the progress of the armor through the series given the geographic references. It starts in Tomsk, goes to Omsk, and winds up in Nizhniy Novgorod, where Gennady turns it up the Volga. It’s a slightly arcing path; if it went any further south, it would’ve crossed into Kazakhstan. That might have been raised interesting international jurisdictional questions, but we sure didn’t have room for them!

We had to do some math to figure the weight of the truck hurled by the armor. Initially, I’d considered depicting it as a big flatbed truck — but checking the specs on the other Crimson Dynamo armors caused us to ratchet it down to a light tow truck.